The last couple of weeks I’ve asked bakers and decorators everywhere to tell me what their current concerns or issues are with their businesses. I’m doing this because I want to be sure that the blog is meeting your needs, that it’s providing you with the resources you need to be successful, and so that I can plan how to help you all achieve your baking business dreams. Just like I would expect you to be aware of trends in food, cake and dessert, it’s important to me to make sure I’m staying current with what the issues are for my readers. Let me first say how grateful I am to those of you who answered my emails, took my calls, and replied in various online forums – you shared your stories, told me your fears, and let me in to your personal lives. Thank you so much for trusting me with that. If anyone still wants to speak to me, please drop me a line – firstname.lastname@example.org – because I’m always keen to hear what you have to say.
Broadly speaking these are the issues that came up the most often:
- Lack of sales skills – what to do when there are a dozen emails with a client (or more!) before the order gets placed (or then they don’t place it at all.) You’re needing skills around how to “close the deal” and convert more of those enquiring emails into real sales.
- Finding Profit – you’re not struggling so much with the costing of products, but figuring out the grayer areas of how much profit you can charge versus another similar business, what percentage of pricing should be profit, and where exactly the profit is hiding if people won’t even pay for costs. These are the, “But how much am *I* worth?” and “Can I really make money from this?” questions.
- Pricing communication – where you’ve decided what you want and need to charge, but you struggle to tell the customer those prices and either cringe before saying it, or end up saying a price lower than you wanted to because you are trying to guess what the customer might be willing to pay.
- Marketing – you know what you need or want to do to get your business and yourself “out there” but you are either struggling to do it (“I’m not good at talking about myself,”), you can’t afford to do it because you have no marketing budget, or you don’t think you are doing it “right” in the first place.
- Keeping your business on track – you’re not sure if what you are doing is the right thing, if you are going to make any money from this idea of yours, or how and when to make decisions about the future of your business or your products.
- Real Life – this is where you’re in the thick of it but you’re frankly a bit over it (“I love it but I’m burnt out by it,”), or you’ve had a major life change (new baby, change of location, partner changing jobs) which means you need to redefine your business goals and strategy.
I also made a point of speaking to those who are not in business yet, or who are in a ‘half’ business – meaning they are doing their baking as a part-time job along with their full-time job, and they’d really prefer to be doing cake all the time. Their concerns were different – but even within them I found that the above issues came up.
Let’s be real here, we’re artists! Stuff like money, paperwork and marketing isn’t our happy place. It’s too rigid, it’s too boring, it’s not what we WANT to be doing. We WANT to be sketching cakes, having a go at Isomalt, trying out wafer paper flowers or flooding royal icing onto cookies. The last thing we want to do is deal with paperwork, numbers, customer complaints and coming up with marketing strategies. For us, having to learn a skill which is very uncreative (like costing) AND then needing to master that skill so we know we’re doing it right is REALLY damn hard. We know on some level we’ve got to do all that stuff, but, WE DON’ WAAANNNNAAA because it’s just not our thing.
So problem one – we’re scared of all these things we need to learn about which are out of our comfort zone. This leads to…..
Problem two – we become so totally overwhelmed by all those things we know we need to learn or change that the overwhelm becomes almost paralysing. This then leads to….
Problem three – rather than tackle those things (because we are afraid of them and because they are overwhelming), we use every excuse under the sun not to pursue our business dreams to their fullest. Excuses like, “I’ll never make money out of it,” “The industry is too saturated already,” “Customers won’t pay me what I’d need to charge,” “I’m not in it for the money,” “It’s not about money for me, it’s about art,” “I don’t have a bunch of money to invest in it,” “If only I didn’t have a baby I could devote more time to it,” and so on and so forth.
Do me a favour. Go back and read those bullet points again. If you nodded your head at even ONE of them, I hope it made you realise that YOU ARE NOT ALONE in this. That’s the problem which many of you mentioned over and over again…that even with all those forums, groups, online portals, cake clubs, friends and colleagues – there was a part of you which still felt alone in all of this business stuff. A part of you which felt it was safer to email me or PM me than it was to say publicly what your issue was. I COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND THIS because I’ve been there and done that. Being in business can be one hell of a lonely, lonely place even when we’re surrounded by wonderfully supportive people. I firmly believe that while some of us may be competitors, WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER. We’re facing the same problems and challenges, it’s just that there isn’t somewhere we can admit that actually, we’re not feeling too confident about our business skills.
I’ve decided that it’s time to give the Business of Baking community a home – so I’ve started a group for you all to join. The rules of the group are pretty simple – join ONLY if you’re seriously wanting to start, grow, or build your business up. Don’t join if you want to complain about the cheap cake lady down the road, or you’re wanting to know what “we” would charge for something, or if you’re looking for the best place to buy a cookie cutter. Don’t join if you aren’t real about going down the business path. Don’t join if you’re looking for a place to complain, bash other cake people, or basically be negative. PLEASE join if you’d like some support and help from people who UNDERSTAND that it’s about BOTH the love AND the money. PLEASE join if you’d like to have a safe, comfortable place to say, “I don’t think I dealt with this customer situation correctly, what do you think?” This group is about business, about being awesome, about lifting one another up and about really MAKING A LIVING. Also – this is not my VIP group, which is where only people who take my class are allowed to go. This one is open to anyone who reads the blog but who needs a more immediate place to talk about business more often, which means that I’m trusting you to stick to the rules and be grown ups, and understand that if I delete a post of yours, it’s not personal – it’s business.
Click here to join – I’ll see you there (please note, joining requires admin approval. Only send me irate emails if it’s been more than 48 hours since your request.)
We’re in this together.
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